Q. What is Bhakti Yoga?
A. The ancient Sanskrit term yoga, literally means union or
to yoke and bhakti (pronounced buck-tee) means devotion. Thus,
this yoga aims at reestablishing, consciously, the relationship
between the Absolute Truth and the individual. All the different
forms of yoga (karma, astanga, jnana) culminate in bhakti. This yoga
teaches how to direct all our activities so we can evolve,
spiritually, toward perfection.
Q. Is Bhakti Yoga a religion?
A. No. It' a philosophy. Religions are sectarian. It is
possible to change one's religion during a lifetime. Bhakti Yoga is
sanatana-dharma, or the basic duty of the soul. It establishes a
philosophical framework from which one can build a successful life.
It can be practiced by anyone of any religious or non-religious affiliation.
Q. I do Hatha Yoga. Should I also practice Bhakti?
A. Bhakti Yoga and the literatures we study in the Bhakti
Yoga club (BYC) will give you the philosophical basis to take your
physical exercise beyond just stretching asanas. Bhakti will round
out your yoga experience to engage your mind while Hatha
yoga improves your health and fitness.
Q. What sort of things does a Bhakti Yogi do?
A. A Bhakti yogi performs the same activities as anyone else.
The change is in consciousness. You don't have to change your
situation to practice yoga, what changes is your consciousness.
There are also some practices called sadhana that serious
bhaktas take up to speed advancement.
Q. Are there specific things a Bhakti yogi studies?
A. In the Bhakti Yoga Club get-togethers we use the
Bhagavad-gita (see BG page on this website) as a springboard for
learning the principles of Yoga. Some of the topics we study are
karma, reincarnation, meditation, purifying the mind, the difference
between material and spiritual, methods of obtaining knowledge,
sense control, service, answering life's existential questions, etc.
Q. Do Bhakti yogis meditate?
A. Mantra meditation is one of the practices of Bhakti. Sound
vibration is very powerful (as every student can attest to!) and
mantra meditation involves the repetition of powerful ancient
Sanskrit mantras which, when chanted regularly (on a string of beads
called japa mala) cleanse the heart and wake up our original, pure
Q. What do you do at BYC get-togethers?
A. They're fun! We begin the program with mantra meditation
set to music. We use diverse percussion instruments, and we sing
several mantras. The mantras are written on large cards so everyone
can read and learn them. Many participants, once they learn the
mantras, will close their eyes and enjoy the beautiful sounds of the
mantras and music.
After several minutes of chanting, we have a
class using Bhagavad-gita as a basis for the discussion. Usually the
class is given by one of the club's sponsors who studied under A. C.
Bhaktivedanta Swami, and who have been practicing Bhakti for over 30
years. Occasionally, one of the students will give a class, and they
are encouraged to do so if they wish.
After the class, there is a
period of questions and answers and discussion. Then there is a
large, free, multi-course vegetarian dinner, during which everyone
talks informally. The whole program is very informal
and comfortable, and the club becomes almost like a second family to
those who attend regularly. No fees are ever charged, and there are
Q. Can I come once, or occasionally, or do I have to attend
A. Certainly we encourage everyone to come at least once to
see if he/she is interested. Like anything, the more you attend, the
more you will learn and understand, and the easier it will become to
incorporate the practices of Bhakti into your life. However, some
students find they can only come occasionally, due to schedule
conflicts or school work, and that is fine. We welcome anyone to
come whenever possible.
Q. Do I need to have any knowledge of yoga to attend? Will I be
lost if I don't?
A. No previous knowledge is necessary. The Center's classes
are targeted toward those who have limited or no past experience
with yogic philosophies.
Q. Are only UVA students welcome?
A. No, everyone is welcome. Our get-togethers are about 1/3
undergrads, 1/3 grad students, and 1/3 members of the
Charlottesville community. We are a multi-cultural group.
Q. Are the programs on Grounds?
A. No the programs are at the Club's sponsors Bhaktivedanta
Center, which is on 10 acres up on a ridge overlooking the
mountains. Several cars take students from Grounds to the Center
each week. Generally, the students enjoy getting away from the dorms
to the warm atmosphere of the Center for the chanting, class and
Q. Do I have to be a vegetarian to participate in the Bhakti Yoga
A. No. However, at the Bhaktivedanta Center we practice
ahimsa or non-violence to all living creatures. We do not serve
meat, fish or eggs, nor do we allow them, alchoholic beverages, or
smoking on the Center's grounds. But you do not have to be a
vegetarian to begin the practice of Bhakti yoga. Once you begin the
practice, and practice mantra meditation for awhile, you may find
your desire for flesh will diminish on its own.